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Digital advertising is more essential than ever in media-company growth and much more complex than print-magazine sales. Campaigns require exponentially more post-sale activity, and often last for months, with specific deliverables that far exceed merely including a piece of creative in a print-magazine imposition. Coordination and visibility crossing a host of departments is critical, as is investment in appropriate software solutions and training for team members.

In this revealing Q&A, CNI Corp. President Jon Dickinson lays out in remarkably clear analysis a game-plan for media companies to grow revenue, and protect the digital-ad revenue they’ve already sold.

Q: For media company advertising and operations, what are the major pain points?

  • How to make money on digital when the dollar amounts are so low compared to print. Advertisers expect a lot for a $300 digital campaign.

  • How to transition to digital, when resources are tied up in print because of inefficient processes and workflows.​

Q: Jon, you’ve been in the business since the early nineties. What has surprised you most?

  • The period of time it takes a sales rep to be effective is extended. It’s not just the increased number of products, but the number of systems, processes, and procedures they have to follow when they make a sale. At one site, a rep has to know over 80 systems.

  • The billing of digital campaigns. I routinely see campaigns that take three-to-six months to bill, or even worse, aren’t billed at all. It’s a widespread problem.

Q: What are the major opportunities?

  • Digital platforms allow media companies to respond to the demands of the market overnight with new products and channels.

Q: Across your customer base, what is the most common challenge?

  • Re-structuring the business. Print was stable and predictable. Technology and digital media change overnight.

  • Dependence on systems and processes that are eating profits and stymie growth in digital.

  • Staffs that resist new technologies and processes and the management that accepts their excuses.

  • Getting paid on digital is a lot more difficult than print. Advertisers expect detailed delivery reports that align with their insertion orders. Agencies exploit inaccuracies to extend payments, or, simply refuse to pay.

Q: As publishers grow their digital products, what should they be thinking about?

  • Digital advertising requires that business-units function in unison to be profitable. Sales, operations, production, accounting, and finance must have cross-visibility to function efficiently and effectively.

  • Aligning digital and print operations is essential. Keeping them separate creates an “old school vs. new school” mentality. Handling digital campaigns is not more complicated than print, it’s just different.

Q: Because so much of this activity is interdisciplinary, who typically “owns” it? Is this condition—the interdisciplinary workflow and multiple skillsets—an impediment to efficiency and growth?

  • The CEO or VP of operations must drive this. Buy-in from the CFO, VP of sales, and VP of production are also required, and, that’s a challenge for us.

  • That said, the challenge dissipates rapidly when we show management that internal advertising operations are the limiting factor in their business. When we break down what it takes to sell, execute, and bill, they generally are very surprised.

Q: Identify three best practices for companies doing digital operations and fulfillment well.

  • Stop using email as a system. Critical information is buried and it’s the source of a lot of missed revenue.

  • Embed technically savvy people in the sales department. Sales are obstructed every day by problems that could be solved in a few minutes.

  • Reduce the number of systems in advertising sales and operations.

Q: What do media companies’ stakeholders expect from those companies? How can CNI help deliver value?

  • First, our Breeze ad ops solution is the only system that consolidates print and digital advertising operational workflows. It reduces the number of systems, streamlines workflows, and provides visibility across sales, operations, production, accounting, and finance.

  • Second is our approach. We roll up our sleeves to learn how your business functions on the front lines, dissect it, and present management with a plan for success. This is what we know what is needed for users to fully adopt and embrace the systems and achieve the savings and operational benefit.​

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